Here are two VDH pieces in today’s NRO:
“We must prepare for a number of paradoxes that might arise. For instance, do we attack from the air targets on the ground, given that Qaddafi’s ongoing strategy likely will be to use tanks and artillery, often at night and among civilian landscapes, to beat back the rebels? (I assume that Qaddafi can still quite handily defeat the rebels without jets and gunships.) Does the no-fly zone, in the fashion of its previous counterpart over Iraq, escalate to more offensive tactics, such as taking out depots or armor concentrations, given that we have raised the ante and don’t want our newfound allies to lose with their advantages of Western air cover?”
Our President has already stated that we will not be putting troops on the ground. So unless he’s engaging in a bold piece of military deception (!) he just laid out a significant self-imposed boundary. One might have wished that he hadn’t made that remark, and kept the threat of a landing in the background. Now, Khaddafy knows what he doesn’t have to worry about.
So just exactly how far are we going to go? Only up to a point and then no farther? What if that point isn’t far enough to give the rebels an edge– because that is essentially what we have undertaken? Do we go up to that point and then say, Nah, it was fun while it lasted but now it’s not worth the effort. Easy for us to say when we don’t have to face the post-failure reckoning. “No mercy,” remember?
“Instead, we ignore congressional approval, broadcast to our enemies all sorts of self-imposed limitations on our use of force, have not defined the mission as the removal of Qaddafi, on day three are promising less rather than more military force, have no clue what is to replace him, and seem uncomfortable with a leadership role that would define victory and take the necessary measures to achieve it.”
So as not to be called smarmy and dishonest, let me state my original position. I’m not sure this was a good idea, but I’m pretty damn sure it was a much better idea about two weeks ago, and I’m nearly fucking certain that it hasn’t magically transformed into a great idea. The whole thing seems to have been done on an ad-hoc basis. We lacked the naval presence in the Med that normally would have provided a glowering menace as well as a means for instant action. Now I have a sinking feeling that we’re trying to make up for that void of power and presence. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity is passed.
As Mr Hanson says, I do hope I’m wrong. (Don’t confuse skepticism with any sort of regard for Khaddafy; I’d love to see him dead. And don’t think I’ve got a new-found pacifism, because I do love a good solid thumping of a deserving target. I happen to prefer military action to be sudden, chaotic, ruthless, blindingly violent and prosecuted with single-minded ferocity.) However, we’re in it now and I hope we go for the win. Whereas we didn’t have a real stake in it before, we have a lot riding on it now.